This is the first critical in-depth study of the anarchist movement in Cuba in the three decades after the republic's independence from Spain in 1898. Kirwin Shaffer shows that anarchists played a significant - until now little-known - role among Cuban leftists in shaping issues of health, education, immigration, the environment, and working-class internationalism. They also criticized the state of racial politics, cultural practices, and the conditions of children and women on the island. In the chaotic new country, members of the anarchist movement interpreted the War for Independence and the revolutionary ideas of patriot Jose Marti from a far left perspective, embarking on a nationwide debate with the larger Cuban establishment about what it meant to be "Cuban." To counter the dominant culture, the anarchists created their own initiatives to help people - schools, health institutes, vegetarian restaurants, theater, and fiction writing groups - and as a result they challenged both the existing elite and the U.S. military forces that occupied the country. Shaffer also focuses on what anarchists did to prepare the masses for a social revolution.
While many of their ideals flowed from Europe, and in particular from Spain, their programs, criticisms, and literature reflected the specifics of Cuban reality and appealed to Cuba's popular classes. Using theories on working-class internationalism, countercultures, popular culture, and social movements, Shaffer analyzes archival records, pamphlets, newspapers, and novels, showing how the anarchist movement in republican Cuba helped shape the country's early leftist revolutionary agenda.